In Depth

Glamping 2.0 at The Private Hill

Deep in the North Yorkshire countryside, the ultimate rural retreat awaits - with a splash of eccentricity on the side

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It is difficult not to love the British countryside. From its gentle unimposing hillocks casting stretched shadows in the late afternoon sunshine to its mock Tudor pubs charging £2.10 for a pint of local mild, there’s something deeply romantic and welcoming about rural England. It’s unintimidating yet breathtaking. 

And what better way to experience it than to immerse yourself in it fully, drifting off in its untouchable silence, sleeping in its muddy fields and waking up to its misty mornings? On paper it sounds wonderful, relaxing and eye-opening - the sort of bracing adventure that allows you to reconnect with the land on which you live. But for me at least there’s one rather frustrating issue: I have always hated camping. And to that end, I’ve never understood why others are so besotted with the idea. What is there to love about not being able to clean yourself to any acceptable standard? Or trying to sleep on the literal ground at night?

For years, I have only indulged in “camping”, as I guess you could call it, if it takes its infinitely more enjoyable sister form of glamping, complete with actual showers, toilets and a comfortable bed - effectively offering all the joys of embracing the countryside without, you know, sleeping outdoors or smelling like a student bedroom for days. And earlier this winter, I discovered that nobody does glamping quite like The Private Hill, a unique collection of four homely domes hidden in a deserted corner of eastern North Yorkshire.

Perched just below the summit of a hill on Thrussendale Farm, The Private Hill’s sleeping quarters take the form of a row of four white Epcot-esque domes, featuring a “geodesic” design resembling an inflated golf ball. With a small black iron chimney protruding from the roof of each dome and a transparent floor-to-ceiling window at the front, our dome would not have looked out of place in one of Elon Musks’s putative upcoming Mars colonisation missions. But there was nothing alien about the interior, awash with comforting touches from a crackling fireplace to plush cotton bedspreads, with fluffy robes and slippers awaiting us. 

The comforting juxtaposition of cosiness and wilderness is undeniably the order of the day at The Private Hill; immediately after arriving, my fiance and I hopped into bed with a bottle of crisp Prosecco kindly left for us by the owners and wallowed in our dome’s tasteful mood lighting and bluetooth speaker set-up, watching the sun dip below the horizon on this frost-tipped January evening, safe from the bluster and near-freezing temperatures outside. 

I awoke the following morning to a gentle dawn light, having left our curtains open, and barely able to see through my bleary eyes I rekindled the glowing embers of our fire with wood which can be purchased on site, which came roaring back to life in a matter of minutes. Having arrived rather late the previous evening and slept perhaps heavier than in years in the stunning silence of the Vale of York, the following morning gave us a better chance to explore our little dome of warmth in the frigid countryside.

I prepared us each a coffee using the Nespresso machine and pods provided and had a shower in our adorable en-suite bathroom situated just behind the headboard of the enormous king-sized bed. The Debussy dome in particular - all four domes are named after the cattle which populate the farm - is surprisingly roomy despite its seemingly small exterior, featuring a sizeable wardrobe and chest of drawers, finished with soft sanded pine, and a stylish glass dining table, where we sat and mapped out our plan for a day’s walking.

But first, visitors should make sure to stop by Jane’s Cafe in the reception dome - the largest on the site - where on-site chef Jo serves up a mean poached egg on toast and guests can cap off their morning with a bone-shakingly large cafetiere of freshly brewed coffee - local jams and preserves are also available for those with a sweeter tooth. Our stomachs full and feeling frankly a little overly buzzed, my fiance and I headed out into the wild, traversing hills and valleys as we made our way toward Kirkham Abbey, stopping off occasionally to marvel at the gorgeous hamlets dotted along the route. A drink at the Stone Trough Inn should not go amiss to anyone heading in this direction, with local York Brewery ales on tap and - for a Londoner at least - exceptionally low prices.

After a 10-mile round trip across the region, we returned to our dome at dusk to discover that our fire had been set while we were away, heating our bedroom to a wonderfully cosy temperature. But while frosty mornings curled up beside a loved one, a crackling fire and a wondrous vista out over the Vale of York may all seem like strong candidates for trump cards at The Private Hill, much to my surprise - and pleasure - the ace up the sleeve of this modern glamping hideaway is Roddy, its worldly, fascinating and utterly delightful owner. 

Stepping off our high-speed train onto the crammed York Station concourse, we were greeted personally by Roddy in his monster truck of a Land Rover, before being driven nearly half an hour across the rolling hills of North Yorkshire as he told us how, through a snaking and wildly fascinating career trajectory, The Private Hill came to be - a rather eccentric tale which encompassed flying around the world selling salmon to high-end restaurants, extensive military service, spending a number of nights in the remotest countryside of Shropshire and a legal battle with the residents of a local village over the sale of alcohol.

You don't have enough wood for the fire? Roddy's coming with the lumber. You don't know which sights to check out? Roddy will drive you there himself; there's little he won't do to make his guests feel like family. A genuinely lovely man whose passion for his project up on the hills of North Yorkshire is plain to see, he is also keen to show off the culture and quirks of region to outsiders - being one himself - to which end we found ourselves dining with him and his wife (and co-owner) Jane at the nearby Jolly Farmer Inn in nearby Leavening on the second night.

Over a stunning pheasant risotto and a bottle of Cabernet Sauvignon, the pair of them regaled us with the tale of how their brainchild had come to be, and while it was a story of red tape, DIY and dedication, for Roddy and Jane - if our fabulous stay at The Private Hill was any metric to go by - it looks like it could scarcely have been more worth it.

Rooms start at £180/night based on two people sharing one dome. To book, visit ThePrivateHill.co.uk or call +44 1653 917288

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